Once upon a time, camouflage was simple. Hunters simply picked either the green blobby print, or the brown splotchy print, with perhaps a tigerstripe or desert pattern showing up here or there. Consequently, a wardrobe choice on the early morning of any lucky weekend was similarly easy — you just grabbed the camo in your closet, put it on, and did your thing. Today, though, there are more camouflage patterns designed for hunting than a person can possibly hope to keep track of, and the specificity of them is similarly off-the-chart. Designs are copied from a dizzying varieties of trees, leaves, grasses, and even dirt, and marketed to specific groups of hunters, and precise game varieties.
Is there a need for all the variety in camouflage patterns? Ask a dozen hunters, and get a dozen different ways to say “yes” or “no”, with as many reasons listed for the answer. Yet, with all these options available on the market, I still see hunters making the same basic mistake over and over again. Perhaps it’s because so many varieties exist that people are overlooking the single rule of camouflage selection:
As soon as the leaves begin to fall and Winter rears its head, all the foliage that we could hide in with our dark greens, browns, and olives over the earlier months begins to lose its chlorophyll, and gives way to shades of tan and beiges. However, even while the colors of nature change, hunters often do not, and end up negating the purpose of the camouflage. Blending in isn’t necessarily having the pattern intended to exactly match the specific flora in your blind (or other spot), though. It’s about being sure your general coloration and patterning fits in with your surroundings, but unfortunately this is the most overlooked aspect of fieldwear I’ve found.
Surveying the camos available in a “big-picture” view shows an essential piece of information that is easy to overlook when individual patterns are considered. Aside from snow camo and blaze camo (both of which serve individual and distinct purposes), most patterns boil down to being primarily dark green or light brown. The application isn’t difficult: wear the darks while there’s still color in the leaves, and turn to the lights as they fade, and eventually disappear. Although that woodland or other heavily green-saturated jacket might legitimately be “camouflage”, is it doing the job of “camouflaging” when the wearer is positioned against fall cornstalks, dried cattails, or tulle grass? In that case, the wearer is more likely to stand out as a big dark spot, and actually attract the attention of game as opposed to concealing their position. The opposite may consequently be true if a lighter-hued winter camo is being worn while nestled in a shady, early season spot.
Do you really need a pattern that replicates corn stalks to hide in a cut field? Do you need precise marsh-grass imagery to be secluded in your duck blind? Perhaps not (although it’s really fun!) As long as you’re breaking up your silhouette and as closely as possible matching your shades with those that nature is showing, you’ll be just fine.
Finally, though, a nod to Realtree®, whose “AP” pattern is the closest thing to working in all conditions that I’ve found, offering remarkable versatility that results in seclusion in a variety of habitats and conditions. Being primarily a bird and waterfowl hunter, my favorite pattern ever is the discontinued Advantage Wetlands, but it hardly gets more specific than that pattern. Everyone’s allowed a favorite – just don’t let your style preference make you a target for your game!
Now get out there and HIDE!